Saturday, August 04, 2007

Rowling's Bible?

Rowling's Bible?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I've pointed out in a recent post on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that J.K. Rowling quotes the Bible, twice, but which Bible translation is she quoting?

Let's take a look.

Concerning Rowling's first quote, I noted in my earlier post the words on the tombstone of Kendra Dumbledore and Her Daughter Ariana:
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
I then identified the source as Matthew 6:21. More accurately, I should have said that the source could be either Matthew 6:21 or Luke 12:34. According to one Online Parallel Bible, the precise words "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" could be taken from a number of Bible translations. If Rowling was quoting Matthew 6:21, then she could have been using either of these two:
King James Version (KJV, 1611)
Webster's Bible Translation (WBS, 1833)
If Rowling was quoting Luke 12:34, then she could have been using any of these five:
King James Version (KJV, 1611)
American Standard Version (ASV, 1901)
English Revised Version (ERV, 1881)
Webster's Bible Translation (WBS, 1833)
World English Bible (WEB, currently in draft form)
This second, five-item list includes the first, two-item list, so Rowling could have been using any of five English translations (insofar as this Online Parallel Bible is exhaustive).

But we need to check Rowling's second quote, which -- as I noted in my earlier post -- we find on the tombstone of James and Lily Potter:
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
I then identified the source as 1 Corinthians 15:26. According to the Online Parallel Bible, the precise words "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" could be taken from only two Bible translations:
King James Version (KJV, 1611)
Webster's Bible Translation (WBS, 1833)
Assuming that the Online Parallel Bible is exhaustive (probably not), that Rowling uses the same Bible version for both quotes (probably), and that the very British Rowling is not likely to have been using an obscure American version (almost certainly), then I conclude (tentatively) that Rowling's Bible is the King James Version of 1611.

Not that anyone cares...

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4 Comments:

At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Nathan B. said...

Well, if nothing else, it's very interesting, and these several posts have certainly fascinated me--notwithstanding the fact that I have no acquaintance with the Potter books apart from movies 1-3. (I'd rather read again either LOTR or Wind in the Willows.)

 
At 4:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nathan, I'm glad that you found it interesting. I'm no maniac about Potter, but I've read all of the books now and had fun reading them. Well, 'fun' doesn't quite express my reading of the latter volumes in the series since they do grow pretty dark. But I liked the story, and I was astonished to learn that she had plotted out the entire series from the beginning, which means that the Christian symbolism was intended from the outset. I had imagined her growing into that...

As for her Bible, the KJV makes the most sense for a story like hers, but I do wonder if I'm right. If she's reading my blog (you know, like the Pope does), then perhaps she'll let us know...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:54 AM, Blogger theswain said...

Heya,

Quite an interesting study. I would think though that given that Rowling is English, and trained at Oxford in Classics for a time, that her translation is most likely the KJV, coupled with the fact that it is the only translation that contains both quotations.

I might refine it further though. I'd suggest that the quotes come not directly from the KJV itself, but from Anglican liturgy. Both phrases occur at various points in the liturgy and throughout the church year.

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Larry, but you overpraise my post by calling it a "study."

You may well be right about the liturgy suggestion. That, by the way, would also perhaps provide clues to how Rowling might interpret these quotes for herself,and not just within her story.

Or at least, knowing the Anglican context might enlighten us as to what Hermione means in her explanation of the quote about defeating death. Harry seems never to have heard of the verse, whereas Hermione explains it.

Jeffery Hodges

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